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 Are home turbines a wind up?   

                                     January 2011

Are home turbines a wind up?

wind turbinesHindsight is said to be a good thing, but how good would it be to also see into the future? Even a generation ago people would have been stunned to see a giant long armed wind turbine set in the middle of the countryside slowly turning in the wind, yet today they are all over the countryside and numbers are growing all the time.

Whether they become a totally accepted part of our lives and landscape, or whether they become superseded by another energy creating system that is less visually intrusive and more efficient remains to be seen; but for the time being wind turbines and wind farms are growing in numbers and importance.

The first wind farm was build in Delabole in 1991 and by 2007 wind energy overtook hydropower to become the UK’s largest renewable generation source, contributing 2.2% of our electricity supply. According to renewable UK, we are the windiest country in Europe and could power our country several times over using energy made from this free fuel. One of Europe’s largest onshore wind farms is the Whitelee wind farm in Scotland where 140 turbines generate enough energy to power more than 180,000 homes.

However, not everyone is in favour of wind farms; they can industrialise beautiful landscapes; they can kill birds and also disturb habitat; they don’t reach their proper potential because wind is simply not reliable; and they can be expensive to build.

Smaller wind turbines designed specifically for individual buildings and homes can be less intrusive, but again there are a number of arguments both in their favour and against them.

There are several companies that specialise in making individual small wind turbines for buildings and homes; indeed the Prime Minister David Cameron installed one on the roof of his London house before he had to remove it because he hadn’t obtained the necessary planning permission.

Some say that putting a home wind turbine up on the roof can not only generate electricity for you, but also increase the value of your home. On the other side, the government funded Energy Saving Trust says that most building-mounted wind turbines in urban areas only generated around £26 of electricity a year. When you think that these turbines can cost well over £1000 to install, it would take a lot to recoup the investment.

There are also some technical issues on installing home wind turbines. Many of the current manufacturers say turbines installed on roofs and fitted to the gable end of residential properties are safe and work well, others believe that the constant vibration could damage the property and that low level turbines at roof heightencounter turbulent rather than steady winds which are highly inefficient.

If you are considering installing a home wind turbine, it makes sense to do your homework properly. While the manufacturers have a host of figures and information, before you go ahead it is also worth obtaining third party verification of the facts. It can be an emotive issue, and some people are glad to be able to add albeit a small contribution to the world’s energy problems by installing their own turbine. But even a small turbine can be an eyesore – you need planning permission and this will involve liaison with your close neighbours who may feel very differently.

Wind power is one of the key methods in the government’s carbon emission target, and certainly the plans for large offshore wind farms around the UK may well make a major contribution to this. However, if you are thinking of installing your own wind turbine, do make sure you have examined all the latest facts and figures first.

 


 

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